The benefit of hindsight truly is a beautiful thing. How many times in football have you confidently written off a player? Be honest, I know I have on many occasions. Think of players who have looked too weak in terms of skill, pace, power or talent for your liking but, with the right coaching and sufficient faith placed in them, have come through with flying colours. While it can be noted that a lot of the time these players’ performances may have warranted criticism, there is a fine line between those who have the talent, but don’t have the bottle to push through the boundary of mediocrity, compared to those who obviously will not make the grade. With regards to United, think of the players who you have persecuted, written off and hung out to dry which are now providing our great club with the platform to potentially grasp an unprecedented 20th title.
This season has been remarkable for United in terms of the amount of injuries suffered by crucial players. I’m not going to focus on the fact that if any other team had experienced the injuries we have endured; they would have greatly underachieved relative to their potential. I am merely stating this important detail to ensure that people are aware of the significant players United have had to be without for a large portion of this season. Players such as our captain, the best defender in the world, Nemanja Vidic and the experienced defensive pivot Darren Fletcher have been out of action for 85% of the season. Add to that the consistent injuries suffered by rising star and midfield catalyst Tom Cleverley, it is truly incredible that United are still challenging for the TITLE. It’s further important that people take note of the fact that every single player in the United squad has been injured/ill at some point during the course of the current campaign.
Looking at those players who have filled the boots of these big match winners can only fill your heart with satisfaction at how well they have done. They have stood up and accepted the challenge head on. Take a look through the heart of the United team and ask yourself what you really thought about these players either before or during the season. Did you write them off?
Rio Ferdinand –
In the absence of our captain and brick wall Vidic, the person who has stood up and proved the doubters wrong is the defensive stalwart - Rio Ferdinand. After the manager publically came out and admitted his game has needed to change due to his pace deterioration, and people writing him off due to the emergence of exciting youngsters like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, Ferdinand had plenty to consider and much soul searching to do. In my opinion, he has done it quite magnificently. Accompanied by the steadily improving Evans in the heart of United’s defence, the 33-year-old has put in some stellar performances of late and re-installed the security at the back. His experience through his communication, reading of the game and last ditch tackles has been invaluable. Forget about next season, right now Rio is arguably one of our most important players.
Jonny Evans –
Without a doubt, behind Darren Fletcher back in the day, this is the number one player all fans have loved to hate. The difference this time is that his previous performances warranted the harsh criticism. After his sending off against City, which led United to their most embarrassing defeat (ever?), I was one of the masses who could not see him returning. However, Sir Alex thought otherwise. Since returning to the team, alongside Rio, he has been nothing short of rock solid at the back. Strong in the air and confident in his tackles, Evans is showing the form he produced while partnering Vidic at the back when the duo helped United achieve a record 11 clean sheets in succession. The potential for Evans to succeed is still very much evident and more patience needs to be shown with regards to nurturing him into the finished article. Yes, Jones and Smalling are my, and I’m sure everyone’s ideal future centre back partnership, but Evans is improving and will be at United for years to come regardless of fans’ preconceived attitude towards him. So become a reborn fan sooner rather than later.
Michael Carrick –
Sniejder, Iniesta, Fabregas, Lampard, Gerrard, Xavi etc etc. The criticism that this experienced professional and elegant passer of the ball has endured during his time at United defies belief. I will state for the record that I have defended him from the very beginning and will continue to do so. While he may not be your typical match winning, X-factor leader like those previously mentioned, Michael Carrick has continued to show why he is so vital to the team. Season after season he has been written off but one must remember that it was the Scholes/Carrick partnership that was the centre midfield duo that delivered United arguably our most successful period in recent years (winning four league titles and a Champions League). His passing range is quite sublime and the excellent defensive tackling performances he puts in these days is a further key role he performs. His game has evolved tremendously during his time at United and he has the ability to complement any midfielder he plays alongside.
David De Gea –
Last but certainly not least, our extremely talented young Spanish goalkeeper with as bright a future as anyone else in the game. This boy will soon become a man and dominate the United goals for many years to come. His talent is glaringly evident for all to see. Yes he made mistakes when he arrived, but it was to be expected when you consider his age, temperament and general lack of experience. The way he has come back and answered the unnecessarily harsh media, though, is just brilliant. In the last five matches he has saved/gained us roughly seven points. Combine his recent showings with the save of the season to deny Mata and winning Player of the Month at United twice, De Gea is already showing the quality we paid big money for. While he has his weaknesses, I can assure you that the United coaching staff are well aware of his current flaws and are working on rectifying them every day. Everyone needs to keep patient and soon we will, once again, have a world class goalkeeper at United.
So the next time you feel like slating a player for a handful of poor performances, I urge you to hold back and think of all the success these people have brought to your life. Perceptions and opinions are allowed to change over time, but don’t be the hypocrite who always thinks he knows best. Be patient and open minded, because more often than not the players you too quickly dismiss become the praised you cannot live without.